Sunday 26th August was the final day of the C4 training.  We went to the Pump House for a big breakfast as normal, did the post training briefings with Piers the skipper, as normal and had done the deep clean of the boat as normal.  However that's where the normality ceased.  Half of the crew packed up their belongings and went back to their homes and jobs and the other half of us stayed.  That's when it hit us.  This was it.  This really was our home for the next 11 months.  We looked around at each other with big grins on our faces. 
We lunched in the sun on board 'our boat', moved our kit around into our preferred bunks and then set about making a list of all the tasks, and fix-it jobs we would need to get done during the next week.  The core team was Brett, the two Mikes, Tom, Ollie and Charlie (female Charlie).
It was a strange week of odd jobs which ranged from changing many of the ropes over to the new set that we'd have for the race - we had to "whip" all the ends of them - and no, that's not some kind of sailing fettish(!) - it means binding the ends of the ropes tightly with twine to stop them fraying! We also serviced all the winches, did bits of maintenance on the mast, produced inventories of all our kit on board, mended broken bits and also installed added extras that we felt would be useful - which in the case of some of the yachts meant buying teles and DVD players and in our case meant rigging up shower curtains by the bunks close to the main hatch to try and stop the rain and waves soaking everything and also installing netting hammocks across the ceiling below decks to gain storage space and have somewhere to put any fresh fruit and veg we would stock up with, where they would be least likely to get wet.

On top of all our jobs, there was also a whole raft of training sessions taking place all week. Between us we had to be trained in the Satellite Comms, different elements of the media work, how to use the on-board sewing machines, sail repair, medics training, and engine and generator maintenance.  I was sent on the media and comms training as the skipper was obviously under some (mis-guided) impression that I would already know all about that! I was slighlty nervous about living up to his expectations and also quite pleased to finally have a chance to play with a video camera and edit laptop!  Steven Spielberg watchout!!! Brett was our new "engineer" as well as doing the "how to pack your life-jacket properly" course and the 2 Mikes went on the sewing machine and sail repair training sessions. They both came back boss-eye and looking rather worried!  Perhaps more worrying though was the fact that tall Mike was the only one around to attend the Medics training. Nurse Rouse as we now call him or "The Doctor" as he now prefers to be addressed, has taken on the interesting bed-side manner of combining his sail repair technique with his medical role.  As a result I suspect we'll have a very healthy boat!  No-one will want to risk having cuts and bruises patched up with a row of machine zig-zag stitch or be bound up with sail-patch tape!

On top of all of the above we also had the task of doing the Victualling for the first leg of the race. Ali Driver had done most of the planning of menus, costing up of the ingredients and trying to balance the books while making sure we weren't all goign to contract scurvy!   With enough spread sheets and action plans in hand to make the planning of a royal wedding look like child's play, two teams of shoppers hit the supermarkets and cash and carry stores.  Five hours and four over-loaded shopping trollies later Tom and I staggered out of Asda wondering how on earth that could possibly have only been the small part of the shopping list - ie the bits that Ali knew she couldn't get in the cash & carry! The experience will be etched on my mind for a long time to come - although in fairness it could have been much, much worse had I not persuaded the store to provide us with our own personal shopper - armed with mobile stock-check gun! Although slighly reluctant at first she turned out to be the fairy godmother of the victualling team - she took us to everything we needed and had people running around get extra stock for us as we piled 320 naan breads into out trolley!
The shoping is only one small part of the victualling process - we then got everything form all 3 shops into a room and had to take every label of every tin and mark-up in pen on it what the contents were, then everything had to be sorted into meal plans and bagged into "day-bags" for each day of our 5 week first leg.  It was a precision, military type operation - unfortuantely we were all civilians and not terribly precise!  Enutaly though it was done and stowed - in the galley, in teh lazerette, in the bunk lockers, underneath the seats in the saloon, underneath the bunks, in the bilges and just about anywhere lese we could find a gap!  Think about it - food for 18 people for 6 weeks - that's a lorra, lorra food!!!

The week finished n- with some of the jobs done and promised form Piers that we'd have time in Hull to finish the rest but for now we had the delivery trip from Gosport to Hull and a practise race to think about.